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15+ Online Business Tools I Use To Build And Grow My Small Business

pic of Cat LeBlanc and her online business tools

I’m often asked which tools I use in my business:

How did I build my website?

How do I make my launching soon page?

Where do I get my ‘iPad’ graphics from?

So I decided it’s high time to answer all this questions in one shot.

Here are the online business tools I use to run my online business.

They aren’t the only ones available by any means but they’re the ones I use, know and love.

I choose tools that help me run my business more efficiently and save me time and money.

Some of them are free.

Some of them aren’t.

I think they’re all pretty rad.

A couple of the links are affiliate links so if you also wanted to use them we’ll be helping each other when you sign up!

So here goes… it’s a long one:

Build A Website That Gives You Control And Flexibility

Platform

My website is build on the platform wordpress.org.

I consider this to be the best platform to build your website on because you own all your content and have total control over the set up.

There are other platforms that make the design process easier but I prefer having full control over my website.

Actually, I am a total website geek and I spend my free time hacking on my website.

Now the truth is out there.

Theme

When you use wordpress.org you need to install a theme.

I did A LOT of research and decided to go with Headway.

Headway is a theme framework, which for all intents and purposes means it’s a much more flexible option than just a theme.

There’s pretty much nothing you can’t do with it. Woo hoo.

As awesome as that sounds it also means there is a lot of configuration to get your head around.

It’s a bit of a learning curve but once you get used to it, it’s pretty darn awesome being able to change whatever you want on your site.

And the best part?

No coding!

It’s more or less drag, drop, choose your options.

After some initial swearing and help requests in the support forum I now love it.

Landing Pages

As flexible as Headway is sometimes I just want to knock up a page really fast.

This is where I use Leadpages.

Leadpages has a raft of high converting templates.

You can literally plugin your graphics and text and away you go.

A 1 minute landing page is all yours.

I use this for all my squeeze pages:

Like this one.

My launching soon page way back then.

And my 404 page (the page you get when you ask for a page that doesn’t exist on my site).

Basically any page that needs great conversion rate or in my case, where I see there’s a Leadpages template for it, so I decide to save myself some time.

3 Tools To Create Amazing Images And Graphics

If I’m creating something myself without the help of a designer the tools I use are Canva, Pixlr and Boxshot King.

Canva is fab for creating quick graphics and if you use your own elements, like your photos or screenshots from your website, it’s free.

I use Pixlr, which is another freebie, to create the graphics in my newsletters as they have a great collage option.

Boxshot King is my go-to tool to make my iPad/eBook images.

You can create the cover yourself in the program or you can upload your own images and it will put the image in an iPad/computer screen/book/cd/anything you want basically.

It’s a little clunky but it’s cheaper than paying someone to do it for you and the results look pretty rad.

I love the way it makes my Business Idea Starter Kit look in the iPad frame.

Set Up An Easy System To Collect Payments

For payments I use… wait for it… wait for it… Paypal.

I toyed with the idea of sending invoices and getting bank transfers to save fees but this makes everything more complicated and Paypal can handle multiple currencies.

So for now, until I get credit card processing, Paypal it is.

Manage Your Calendar

There are many great calendars out there.

For the moment though I’m sticking with Time Trade.

It’s very simple and it seems to handle the time differences better than other calendars.

I’m in Australia and I often see clients on my Thursday and their Wednesday, so it’s very important to me that my calendar knows what day it is for who.

Client Calls

Skype is where it’s at for me.

As I have clients all over the world it just makes it easier to use one technology even though I theoretically could just call the Aussies on an actual phone.

Imagine.

I’ve tried a few options and it just came out best.

I have a separate Internet connection set up so that if suddenly someone starts using YouTube at the other end of the house, the call doesn’t just die.

I’m like the Internet Queen of the house with my premium connection.

Ha.

Take that visitors and other Internet users in my house. (Usually it’s just my boyfriend, the dog hasn’t figured out the whole Internet thing yet).

Email Management

I use Aweber.

At the beginning it was a toss between Aweber and Mailchimp.

I chose Aweber as it has more advanced statistics and greater functionality.

So far I’ve been happy.

Mailchimp does have the advantage of being free under a certain list size, and many people continue to be really happy with it, bit I wanted the pro features out of the gate.

Track Those Stats  – Google Analytics

I use the industry standard free Google Analytics to track everything on my website.

As soon as you have a website you should get yourself a code from Google and install the analytics plugin.

You can only track from when you install it so put it in as soon as you can.

Then you get to actually find out what people are doing on your website.

File Sharing

If I’m sharing files with clients and they’re too big for email I use Dropbox.

If we both need to edit a file, for example, we’re working on copy, I use Google docs.

You both can be editing at the same time in Google docs AND see what the other one is doing, which is pretty amazing.

Knowledge Management

I keep everything I want to be able to find again later in The Brain.

Not my brain – The Brain. ;-)

If I try and keep it in my own brain, I can’t be 100% sure I’ll be able to find it again.

I’ve been using this software for years and I love it.

Not only is it incredibly useful, it also looks cool.

I used it at my corporate job but now it’s become a reliable software tool I use to help run my business.

Whenever anyone came over to ask me a question I didn’t immediately know the answer to I would say, “Hold on a minute while I check my brain…”

Then I would start clicking through the interface, through my “thoughts”.

The basic version is free and that’s generally all you need.

You know a lot more when you have two brains I find.

This was number 5 in the 6 part blog series – How To Start A Side Business

Here is the complete series:

1. why starting a side business may be the secret to your success.
2. 5 qualities you must cultivate to be a successful entrepreneur.
3. the single most important skill you need to run a side business.
4. why YOU are the weakest link in your business (and what to do about it).
5. the tools I use to run my online business.
6. starting your own business: not as hard as you think!

Now I’d like to hear from you…

Which online business tools are your go-to solutions?

Have you had any experience with the tools I’m using?

Let me know in the comments below.

 

Business Idea Starter Kit

 

17 Responses to 15+ Online Business Tools I Use To Build And Grow My Small Business

  1. Love this! So useful. Before I head off to take a look at Lead Pages and The Brain (what !!!), I can tell you that I use:

    – picmonkey.com for graphics – so easy to use, and a lot of the functions are free.
    – youcanbook.me for meeting management – it converts time zones and automatically adds the meeting into the Gmail calendar. Plus the two calendars are sync’d, so no more emailing back and forth for suitable times to meet.

    • I hear great things about picmonkey. Plus I like monkeys, really I should be using Mailchimp!

      Thanks for the tip on youcanbook.me.

      Yeah, The Brain, it’s kind of awesome and interestingly no one ever gives you a hard time for not using your own brain when they see you using it, because it is just too interesting I guess.

      Thanks for commenting Razwana!

      Cat x

  2. Awesome post Cat, sooooo helpful!

    Hi there Raz, lovely to see you too!

    I’m there with wordpress, aweber and have signed up to leadpages recently. I use powerdiary to confirm appointments – one click and a text reminder goes out 48 hours before an appointment. It’s $30 – $60 a month but I have reduced my cancellations big time so am saving at least $320 a month by using it.

    I was looking at a couple of online booking systems for clients… for now as I’ve got more and more clients on career coaching packages where in 1 or 2 emails all appointments are booked… that feels easy – my oh my!
    I checked canva out recently – it looks awesome!!
    I’ll go ahead with paypal – cheers!
    Have a great week!

    • Great that you are making such savings with powerdiary. I hadn’t heard of that one. That is one fault of Time Trade – no reminder functionality.

      I’m happy to hear you’re getting more clients in your career coaching packages :-) Go you!

      Thanks for commenting Nikki!

      Cat x

  3. Greetings Cat! thank you so much for sharing your tools. I am soo happy to discover thebrain through you. I was hoping to find something more right brain and this tool seems priceless. I wll dive into it and share.
    I use WP for website, I am exploring leadpages. I am new to the tools you shared for graphics, thank you! I do use Paypal also, wasted time and money using more sophisticated platforms as shoping carts and CRM, I am downgrading from Ontraport to Mailchimp. I use Blackboard collaborate for teaching on line and asana.com for team work. Thank you!

  4. This is great! I use evernote like crazy, with google drive and drop box ;P
    Slight overkill, I also use hootsuite to do all my social media at one time, and I’m playing a lot with Redbooth right now which is really simple and easy to check tasks off.

    Another thing I find myself using contantly is timeanddate.com – I have an application on my phone, desktop and there’s the url too

    • I toyed with Evernote for a while too. It is an amazing tool but I had to choose and for me The Brain won. Evernote is fab though!

      Thanks for commenting! I’ll have to check out Redbooth :-)

      Cat x

  5. Oh man, a new toy—I mean tool! The Brain looks SUPER cool. I definitely have an affinity for anything to do with organization!

    • I think you hit the nail on the head with the toy comment! But yes, it does actually also come in really handy for keeping everything in order :-)

      Thanks for commenting!

      Cat x

  6. Hi Cat,

    thanks for this! I am just starting out with my online business so every bit of help is welcome and you and your site have provided me with a wealth of inspiration!

    I’m happy to add on the handy tools: I use Capsule CRM to manage all my clients, prospects and potential opportunities. It enables you to create really handy task lists and you’re sure to not lose track of your customers and information relevant to them. I’m also a big fan of NiftyQuoter. An awesome tool to create beautiful online quotes. You can change pretty much everything and it allows customer to approve online and ask questions.

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